5 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned in Seminary by Josh Holler for The Gospel Coalition
I can’t think of a time or place in my life where the ravages of sin attacked more fiercely, training in the faith was so costly, or where my love for God was tested so deeply as my years in seminary.
Seminary experience varies from person to person, but for me, it was a baptism by fire, one in which the Lord taught me many life-altering lessons. The following five were the most important.
1. Knowledge Puffs Up
“Let me tell you why you’re wrong,” was often on my lips during seminary. I couldn’t understand why my family grew tired of my “lessons” in following Christ. Regrettably, I burned too many bridges to count by attacking my family with my newfound knowledge. Then I realized what a profound blessing it was to have an extended family thoroughly unimpressed with me.
I’d placed a priority on sets of facts, systems of thought, and propositions, yet hadn’t been aware of how I’d been arrogantly misusing that knowledge in my relationships. The pride in possessing that knowledge built a wall that strained familial relationships and created a barrier that proved more difficult to deconstruct than to build. Though my growing knowledge was a gift from God, I used it to build myself up instead of urging others to Christ.
2. Ministry Flows from Relationships
Ministry flows from relationships, not accolades. My spiritual mentor had been telling me that for years, but I couldn’t hear it; I was too busy trying to become the “theology answer man.” It took me far too long to learn that the the first strategy for deconstructing non-Christian worldviews is listening, showing compassion, and remembering the names of other people’s children. Dropping transcendental “truth bombs” is not the place to start.
Evangelistically, the greatest tool for preaching the gospel isn’t “drive-by blasting” truth atpeople, but extending an invitation to people—an invitation to come and see God’s truth at work in my life. Perhaps this isn’t surprising to most, but it was refreshing and deeply emboldening for me. Ministry shouldn’t primarily center around turning every venue into a classroom, but in humble conversations that take place in homes, coffee shops, and at work.
3. You Can Get an ‘A’ Sinfully
Can you be a good student and get a “C” in homiletics? In seminary, there’s simply not enough time to do all the assignments, read all the papers, hold down a job, get internship hours, spend time with family, and sleep. One of my professors stressed this point early for me, and it removed the performance pressure to achieve a stellar GPA. The tension of juggling all these duties and obligations simultaneously forces us to make choices at particular intersections: “Will my grade suffer, or will my family suffer?”